Classical management approach and human relation management


Classical school of thought or the traditional management school of thought is the oldest schools of management approaches. It was started around the twentieth century when workers and organisations managers started having misunderstandings between themselves. It was the initiative of some distinguished managers that led to the Classical approach when they saw the need for change and improvement in the way management and workers conduct their daily business was necessary. One of the distinguished managers was Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915) who was known as the father of classical management.

Some of the problems encountered during that time were that majority of the workers were non-English speaking immigrant, so training them in English language became a problem, communication problem caused a lot whereby workers are unhappy with the management and management were unhappy with the workers attitude to their work and these cause reduction in productivity.

According to Daft and Marcic they provide that the cause of the inefficiencies in production was from the management and not the workers and so therefore changes are needed from the top of the organisation hierarchy to the bottom in other to improve productivity.

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In order to solve these problems which are affecting production, and get work going, the managers started looking for ways to solve these problems, and satisfy the workers? The managers started trying different tests and researches that finally born the classical school of thought.


There are three different branches developed by the classical management school, the first is the scientific school and the second is administrative school and lastly the Beauraucratic School. . The main reason and characteristic of these three branches was the rationality of the employees, people choose to work because of their economic reward, and loyalty is not the reason individuals are working for but the economic incentives and also what gives them the greatest monetary benefit. So therefore any manager who wants to get the best out of their workers needed to consider their monetary desires. This research was based on pessimistic view of human nature. "Classical approach recognized human emotions buy felt that a logical and rational structuring of jobs and work could control human emotions."

(Sridhar M. et al, 2004, pp4)

The Three categories of Classical School of Management

Scientific School

The Scientific school theory was developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor, the theory is based on the believe that there is "one best way" to do a job and the scientific methods can be used to determine that "one best way".

By the turn 20th Century managers had concerns over the productivity and efficiency of the workforce. Managers believed at the time that it was essential to give workers definite tasks and the right tools to maximise their ability to fulfil specific duties. He examined two different methods that people work and the structure of the organisation. Taylor broke down the way people work into smaller parts which he called "therbligs". He suggested that if workers understand their work better, then you could significantly train them to do what the job exactly required. On the organisation structure He explained that defining the job requirement, training to the task of that job, hire the best trained, promote on the same basis, and have a strong and clear hierarchy. Taylor's purpose was to directly link skill and productivity to pay. He assumed that if organisation have skilled workers and are properly applied, productivity should follow.

Taylor's contribution to scientific management was based on an experiment he performed with cutting of metal into a science. He experiment with shovel, by using different type of shovel for use with different materials which the workers can use for the whole day. He reduced the number of people shovelling at the Bethlehem Steel Work from 500 to 140. This was a success and his studies on the handing of pig iron, greatly contributed to the analysis of work design.

Administrative School

Another contributor of the scientific management is Henri Fayol (1841-1925). A French engineer, he based his own study on the Managing Director and worked downwards. Fayol's theory was based on "general theory of administration" ( Fayol on the other hand did not believe that there was a set of numbers of ways to manage the organisation and its employees; he built a personal observation and experience of what worked well in terms of organisation. However he proposed fourteen principles of management.

Some of these principles will be discussed below.

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Division of Work - He suggested that specialisation of individual build up experience and continuously improves his skills. Thereby he can be more productive.

Authority - Command and responsibility must be balanced

Discipline - Employees must obey authority while authority must give good leadership. I believe it is a good way of respecting both sides and providing checks and balance.

Unity of Command - One boss to one employee, I believe this will help to avoid conflict of order and decision making

Unity of Direction - Same group of people with the same target should be led in same way.

Subordination of individual interest - Goals of the organisation must be paramount to managers.

Remuneration - Fayol suggested that fair remuneration to workers will motivate them to work harder.

Scalar Chain - Hierarchy is necessary for unity of direction. But lateral communication is also fundamental.

Initiative - Employees should be given opportunity to use their own initiative. When employees brings right solution to solving a problem, they should not be turned down by managers, because it demoralises.

Equity - Organisations should bring justice, fairness and kindness to employees during dispute among workers.

Stability of Tenure of Personnel - Job security and career progression is needed to motivate workers.

Order - Both material order and social order are necessary to build loyalty and confidence in workers.

Esprit de Corps - Management must foster morale of its employees.


I can still see some of the Fayol's principles around today despite that they have been deemed obsolete by some of today's managers. In my own understanding I believe that these principles were not obsolete but were built upon and modernized by today's managers to meet today's organisation design and management requirements.


Max Weber (1864-1920).

""Bureau" is a French word that simply means Desk or an office if we want to expand it. This is how Max Weber described his idea of is a rule conducted from the desk or office. He described that the most rational and best organisation structure would be the one run from the office. He believes that organisation needs to run with strict rules for regulation to run successfully.

Max bureaucracy helped in eradicating business love, personal interest and so on that is present in the organisations.

This specific nature of bureaucracy and it is appraised as its special virtue. The more complicated and specialized modern culture becomes the more its external supporting apparatus. Bureaucracy offers the attitude "demanded by external apparatus of modern culture in the most favourable combination."

(Weber M. et al 1948)

Another school of thought was the human relation school of thought who was started around 1924 by some groups of researchers like Elton Mayo, Clair Turner and many more. Human relations approach takes a different view to Classical management, it recognises that human have emotional needs that needs to be met. These human factors became what are known as the "human relations school of management".

"Cary. L. Cooper, 2010, summarises that human relations school of thought came to existence around 1930s as a reaction against the mechanistic view and the pessimistic view of human nature suggested by the classical approach."

(Copper. C)

Two principals theorist of human relations management are Abraham Maslow and Douglas McGregor.

Abraham Maslow's Contribution

Abraham Maslow described five sets of goal which may be considered as human need or want. They are: Safety, Physiological, love, esteem and self-actualization. These human needs are arranged by Maslow according to their level of importance. This is called Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Physiological Need - Maslow explained that physiological of human were the first needed to be satisfied for people to be happy. Physiological need is the primary need of people before all other needs. The day to day needs such as breathing, food, water, sex and so on. Without food no existence because I believe anyone will think about food before security or employment.

Safety Needs - Safety need comes after the physiological need. Safety needs according to Maslow are needs that free people from threats and danger. Some of the examples of safety needs in today's organizations are items like life insurance, medical insurance, workers compensation, salaries and many more. If a person is sick he is very concerned that there will be some salary continuance until he is okay to return to work.

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Love/Belonging Needs - The third human need is love and be loved, belonging to an association, be acceptable to others. When these needs are met then people feel secured, sense of belonging.

Esteem Need - Maslow explained that people need to be self-confidence, independence, recognised and be respected by peers.

Self-Actualization Need - Maslow summarises that once a person has attained the proceeding needs that is when a person is capable of being. It is so difficult to achieve these five phases but Maslow emphasised that everyone should attain to reach their full potential.

Douglas Mcgregor Contribution

Douglas Mcgregor in his own contribution to human relations management asserts that there are two sets of distinct assumptions about human which is called Theory X and Theory Y.

Theory X Assumption (Authoritarian style)

Douglas McGregor Theory X says that the average human being has an inherent dislike of work and will avoid it if he can. He said that employees would show little interest in the tasks at hand

Douglas McGregor in his theory assumes that employees are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can.

Because workers are lazy they need to be closely monitored and supervised

People try to avoid responsibilities, and want security above everything.

Theory Y Assumption (Participative Management style)

Work should be as natural as play

People are allowed to use their initiative to pursuit organisation objectives, without external control or threat of punishment.

People want to take responsibility

Some Characteristics of the theory X managers described by Douglas McGregor

Demand, never ask

Distance and detached

Does not participate


Unconcerned about staff welfare

Some Characteristics of the theory Y managers described by Douglas McGregor

They are opposite of all the characteristics of theory X managers listed above


Classical Management approach and Human Relations Approach

In my own understanding I can conclude that Classical approach to management is more superior to the human relations approach to management mainly because the human relations approach to management has been abused in recent times, some people find themselves at the top management of business organisations which they did not deserve but through favours and relationship ties that exist in human relations approach. This has caused a lot of harm than good, qualified brains are not really managing the organisation any more, favour and relationships have eroded this.

I asked myself why do we get all this sub-standard products on our market shelves today, the answer is the human relations approach of management that is more in organisations today. We find products failing on the field today, organisation are spending millions in training and advertising, this money can be used to invest in the business, from reliable statistics we find out millions of production time lost every day in this country due to human relations approach. Organisation has forgotten that there are no loyal employees; people are only working because of the benefit they get from it.

The present tough financial condition in the world today has opened the eyes of some managers to see these areas and bring back sanity into organisations. Organisations are more or less yielding to the classical approach by cutting job, getting rid of unproductive elements in the organisation; non-performing staffs are losing their jobs, cost cutting, employees only get what they deserve, no unnecessary bonuses are paid. As a non-business owner you might not get these things, it is about separating business from relationships.